On our last day in port, we visited Mamallapuram which is the site of several non-working temples. They have fantastic carvings – some are carved from a single boulder while others are carved in pieces and assembled together to form a temple. To this day, Mamallapuram is a city of stone carvers – there is a street lined with little shops and workshops with beautiful work. It was a great day out with friends and I realized my dream of getting a stone Ganesha of my own. This guy is the Hindu remover of obstacles and is the friend of students, taxi drivers and anyone who wants to get things done. He is about 6" high and 12" long and will reside in my garden. I chose a reclining Ganesha because the standing versions with the more typical 4 arms tip over more easily. Maybe someday I’ll get a larger 4-armed guy to go with my tiny sandalwood version.
The Shore Temple was our first stop in Mamallapuram. It is 1300 years old and is different because it houses both a shrine for Shiva and one for Vishnu. It is also an early example of an assembled - rather than boulder-carved - temple. There are Hindu’s who follow Shiva and others that follow Vishnu – to house them together is rare. With that said, this was never a working temple.
It is amazing how much detail remains in the temple carvings after so much time in the seaside air:
The Five Rathas (5 chariots) is about 100 years older than the Shore Temple and is an example of monuments carved out of boulders – as our friend Manuel puts it the “artists liberated the shapes from the stone”. The problem, of course, is that if you mess up you can’t correct it. If you are assembling carvings together into a structure, you can re-do the part you made incorrectly. These carvings are incomplete.
The display below shows a possible play on words. The word for the style of roof on the structure in the background translates to “elephant’s backside”. The artists put an elephant’s backside ride next to it…a lot of work for a pun!
Perhaps the most interesting carvings are on the Descent of the Ganges: